TORONTO - The Los Angeles Galaxy is four games away from history.
The Galaxy is off to an amazing 7-0-1 start, and can extend the undefeated run with a win Saturday (10:30 p.m., Sportsnet) over Toronto FC at the Home Depot Center. If the Galaxy can push the streak to 12 games without a loss from the start of the season, it will equal the post-shootout era mark set by the 2000 Kansas City Wizards.
Those Wizards started 10-0-2 en route to an MLS Cup season.
The 1996 L.A. Galaxy also went 12 games undefeated to start the season, but some of their wins came in shootouts.
That Wizards team of 2000 has many connections to the Toronto FC team of 2010.
It featured Preki in the midfield, who had a fantastic 15-assist season. Mo Johnston played up front with Danish national teamer Miklos Molnar. And a young Nick Garcia played in each and every one of the team’s regular season and playoff games, tying Peter Vermes for the most minutes played on the Wizards.
If TFC can somehow find a way to beat the Galaxy, a tall order for a team that hasn’t come close to getting a point on the road in MLS play this season, the Reds can ensure that their director of soccer (Johnston), coach (Preki) and veteran centre back (Garcia) will retain their share of the MLS record book.
But how do the Galaxy of 2010 and the Wizards of 2000 compare?
Kansas City gave up five goals in the first 12 games of the season.
Through eight games, Galaxy goalie Donovan Ricketts has been beaten just twice. Landon Donovan had four assists in two games last week. Edson Buddle has scored nine goals.
Last weekend, the Galaxy won consecutive road games in Colorado, arguably the toughest road venue in MLS, and in Seattle.
“That’s a very organized and skilled team,” said Johnston. “No one in their right minds goes into Seattle and wins 4-0. A 4-0 win one the road anywhere in this league is rare.
“Landon is a big piece for Bruce (coach Bruce Arena), and he’s been on fire of late. And they also don’t concede goals.”
But, Johnston doesn’t think there are many similarities between the two teams. He said it would be like “comparing apples to oranges.”
The league has changed so much in the last decade. The speed and skill level of MLS games has improved immensely.
“We had a very good team, we were very organized. But it’s hard to compare the two. That was years ago. The league is completely different.”
The Wizards enjoyed their glory years from 1996 to 2000. From that class, Johnston counts 13 players who went on to careers in management and coaching, including himself and Preki. Vermes went from being Garcia’s defensive partner to the coaching job in Kansas City.
In fact, Johnston laments the fact the team took only one MLS title. D.C. United won in 1996 and 1997 — and Johnston felt the Wizards should have won in both of those seasons.
So 2000 was special for Johnston, Preki and Co. It was a season of retribution.
And that’s how L.A. wants to mirror Kansas City. Last season, L.A. was heavily favoured to take MLS Cup, but lost in penalties to a Real Salt Lake team that got into the playoffs on the last day of the season.
Kansas City won in 2000 to make up for previous seasons where it should have won, but didn’t.
The Galaxy is on the same mission in 2010.
If L.A. is in Toronto in late November for MLS Cup, maybe comparing the two teams won’t be like apples and oranges anymore.